His Only Relative Died In El Paso. Now, Her Funeral May Draw Hundreds Of Strangers
Antonio Basco's wife of 22 years was killed in the mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart this month, and her passing means that Basco has no relatives left.
Basco, who runs a mobile car wash business in El Paso, told the funeral home planning the service for his late spouse, Margie Reckard, that he wanted to invite members of the public to attend her visitation.
Since then, the funeral home has been inundated with support from people who never knew Basco or his wife.
"We're getting calls constantly, every two or three minutes," Harrison Johnson, the funeral director at Perches Funeral Homes, told NPR. "It really surprised us."
The funeral home has a capacity of about 250 people. Johnson said he is expecting more than 1,000 mourners to show up to Reckard's service on Friday.
Johnson said he is in talks with a larger venue, a nearby church, to host the visitation, given the outpouring of support since the funeral home posted the invitation on Facebook on Tuesday morning. The post has been shared more than 11,000 times.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and other officials have confirmed that they will attend, Johnson said, along with hundreds of strangers, including a couple flying from California because they were so moved by Basco's loss. A choir, a mariachi band and other musicians have also stepped forward to play at the visitation, he said. And more than 50 people have ordered flower arrangements.
"It's just remarkable," Johnson said. "I'm thankful there are still nice, kind people out there who want to show their kindness for a tragedy of others. It'll definitely help Antonio get through this real trying time."
A moving photograph of Basco grieving in front of a makeshift memorial while wearing a blue plaid shirt, bluejeans and a Ford Motor cap has circulated widely on social media since the gunman's attack, which left 22 people dead. A suspect is in custody.
Johnson spoke on the phone with Basco Wednesday morning. And though Basco was grateful that so many people plan on showing support, Johnson said Basco has not been able the shake the pain inflicted on him by the death of his wife, who was 63 and born in Washington, D.C., according to her obituary. To Basco, she was an "an angel."
"He was in tears this morning talking about how much he's missing her. The reality is beginning to set in that she's not coming back," Johnson told NPR. "He feels lonesome."
Johnson, who is also a pastor, said he will make certain that Basco stays surrounded by support.
"We're trying to give him some comfort right now."
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.